Written by Dave Black - @cm9798
Hello and welcome back to Part 2 of Mid 90s Milan. We got the 96/97 campaign off to a gentle start in part one, the star-studded squad showing glimpses of promise in my first few games in the dugout. The aim is to outperform Milan’s rather terrible real life 96/97 season, which will involve getting out of the Champions League group stages.
We really should manage that. CSKA Sofia and FC Croatia not only represent excellent European breaks but anything less than 12 points from those four games will be a failure. We also have to contend with Juventus, in what I assume was an administrative oversight. Sadly for us their squad is every bit as impressive as ours. They’ve added Delli Carri, Schottel and German International Dieter Eilts to an already stacked squad and it sickens me to my very core.
Edgar Davids is back for us. He will of course go on to play for Juventus and also Inter Milan. There’s no loyalty in Italian football. Take Christian Vieri. Sure he’s at Juventus now, but he would go on to play for both Milan’s, Lazio, Sampdoria and Fiorentina. Oh and Atalanta twice but that’s less irksome. Naturally he opens the scoring on his way to a perfect ten rating. We knock on the door but find Angelo Peruzzi there on six occasions. Boksic then scores a sucker punch second before Davids leaves on a stretcher.
Not an ideal start to the European campaign but easier matches lie ahead. Davids won’t be involved for a while.
That’s annoying. Not to worry though, we’ll shuffle the pack for the visit of Lazio.
Lazio have a really fun squad. The line is lead by Casiraghi, who will go on to cause Phil Babb to slide groin first into a post in years to come. For some reason they have seen fit to spend £8m on Peter van Vossen to partner him, leaving Signori on the bench. Signori is one of my favourites from the old Serie A on Channel 4 days. Young Czech International Pavel Nedved has an exciting future ahead whilst Alessandro Nesta marshals the defence. He is however partnered by Paul Okon whilst they have spent £3m on Jody Morris from Chelsea. I…don’t know why.
It’s a tight game with few clear-cut chances in the first half. Desailly heads in from a free kick though before Simone adds a second. That should signal the end of the game but Nedved scores from distance just a minute later. Simone adds a second and then Albertini wraps it up. Four goals in ten minutes, who said Serie A was dull?
Boban picked up a bruised thigh so he’ll sit out the midweek trip to Cagliari. Our midfield options are dwindling so Desailly is back in there with Baresi reinstated into the back four. Savicevic also starts ahead of the disappointing Weah. Cagliari class Ramon Vega as a star player, as is soon to be Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Marco Pascolo. Both are injured, which I guess helps.
Simone scores from Savicevic free kick after just three minutes and it looks like beign one of our easier away days. We tread water for a bit though, making the odd chance but nothing clear cut. Losing Maldini early on is less than ideal as Reiziger has to play out of position at left back. Honestly, this lot drop like flies. Bressan equalises in the second half and I throw on Dugarry and Weah to try and save face. Dugarry obliges. Phew.
A month without Maldini. The only other left back in the squad is 19-year-old Francesco Coco, who would go on to play for Barcelona and Inter yet failed a trial for Newcastle after failing to impress in a friendly against Yeading. I wish that was a lie.
Still, Boban is back as Udinese roll into town. They have Olivier Bierhoff who scored the winner for Germany in the Euro 96 final. We’re not at our fluent best but I’m starting to wonder if we ever are. I’m not 100% sure these lads even come to training. They just turn up on a match day and hope somebody does something clever. It takes 70 minutes but Savicevic goes on a mazy dribble before finding the corner. It’s not for lack of trying, 9 shots on target is not a bad effort but just one goal. Surely we should be getting more from this attack?
Back to the elite European club competition now as we welcome the imaginatively named FC Croatia. I expect nothing less than a win but Costacurta departs on a stretcher after four minutes. Sigh. It turns out to be a twisted knee that will only see him miss a few weeks. Baggio scores a delightful chip but as usual after that there is a lot of huff and puff but the Croatian house will not blow down. Typically, they then equalise just after half time. That seems to shock us into life and three goals in four minutes win us the game.
CSKA Sofia drew 1-1 at home to Juventus. Maybe I’ve underestimated them?
With Costacurta now joining Maldini on the treatment table I’m left with no choice but to bring Desailly back into defence. Albertini will play in the centre of the midfield three and I’m going to gamble with Dugarry on the right side. It’s probably a bit deeper than he’d like to play but he’s done well whenever he has come on there. Also, he isn’t Jesper Blomqvist. Verona are 17th so our trip there does not fill me with dread.
Maybe it should. A scrappy game sees set pieces galore and most of them end with a Verona head directing the ball towards our goal. Rossi is keeping us in it. By half time they’ve had 10 shots to our 4 and they smell blood. Eventually, one corner too many for us to defend leads to De Vitis giving them the lead. Time to tinker. Dugarry has a 5, so that hasn’t worked. Coco has a booking so he’s off for Weah whilst Blomqvist is on for Dugarry. It’s a back three of Desailly, Baresi and Panucci with Boban on the left of midfield and Blomqvist on the right. Albertini holds the centre whilst Savicevic and Baggio play off Weah and Simone. Immediately, Savicevic scores a screamer to undeservedly pull us level. He then plays in a free kick which Panucci meets sweetly and it’s 2-1. Reiziger replaces Baggio and we see out the last half hour. Easy this management lark…
That brings September to a close. We are top after five games. Juventus just lost 3-1 to Perugia so even with their game in hand, they won’t overhaul us. But we’ve played five games. There will be problems ahead.
Join me next time to see how October goes. It looks like being quite a month as we face Napoli, Inter and Juve across three different competitions. See you then.